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Discovery
Tiny Bacteria Are Secret to Cicada's Success

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Photo of a cicada feeding on a plant in Tucson, Ariz.

The cicada Diceroprocta semicincta feeds on a plant in Tucson, Ariz. Cicadas feed exclusively on plant xylem sap, an extremely dilute food source, and have established symbioses with bacteria to supplement their diet.

Credit: Adam Fleishman, www.cometmoth.com


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Photomicrograph showing in red and green two co-symbiotic bacteria within a  cicada.

The cicada Diceroprocta semicincta has two long-term co-symbionts, a Bacteroidetes called Sulcia muelleri (green in this photomicrograph) and an Alphaproteobacteria called Hodgkinia cicadicola (red). These bacteria live exclusively in specialized cells in insects, and provision the animal with essential compounds that are lacking in their diet.

Credit: John McCutcheon, University of Arizona


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